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In one of those rare occasions of apt anime marketing in America, Akira Original Soundtrack managed to find its way to U.S. shores as a domestic release. Even more so than the film it originates from, this CD is as much a work of art as it is entertainment. As such there are some who will hail it as a masterpiece, and others who will simply wrinkle their nose and turn on the radio. I fall into the first category, although with some reservations.

This OST is unconventional by any standard. Performed by the Geinoh Yamashirogumi, the music consists mostly of percussion and chanting, along with a few diverse sound effects and – occasionally – more standard instrumentation like an electric guitar. The percussion definitely has an uncontemporary, ethnic sound. Various types of percussion commonly build upon each other persistently into a massive front of sound. As for the chanting, it is unlike anything else I’ve heard. In “Kaneda” it takes a slightly tribal sound, with the airy, mystical, almost whisperlike early chanting being joined by firmer, louder vocals that approach the level of shouting. Combined with the percussion, memorable melody, and its prominent place in the film, this track is one of the highlights of the CD.

The chanting in “Tetsuo” has an almost childlike quality, both in the nature of the performer’s voices and the simplicity of the “lyrics”. (In actuality the chanting is not lyrical at all in this track, but is rather a totally unique arrangement of human vocalization.) The childlike nature is contradicted by the sense of danger and sheer power with which it is performed, making for another unforgettable piece of music.

Tracks like Kaneda and Tetsuo leave me in awe of Akira OST’s originality and emotional power. However, there are other tracks which, despite their amazing originality and artistic superiority, are just too odd and unmelodic to be desirable for common listening. Borderline tracks include “Battle Against Clown”, with its intentionally revolting, exaggerated breathing sound effect, and “Dolls’ Polyphony”, with its use of bizarre, interweaving vocals that defy description in words. On the extreme side is “Illusion”, which begins bearably enough but for the latter eight or so minutes contains almost intolerable “restrained human howling”, for lack of a better term (although, to be fair, I believe the sound does have roots in ethnic Asian music).

Akira OST is an amazingly original work of art in its entirety. At its best, it is enrapturing and intense with emotion. At its worst, it is difficult for even more open-minded listeners to tolerate. While the music fits the film superbly, on its own I listen to it only occasionally and rarely in full. However, as a fan of the film and an admirer of the music’s unconventionality, I wouldn’t be without the CD.

by Adam Corn,

Geinoh Yamashirogumi & Yamashiro Shoji-AKIRA OST (1990)
320kbps MP3


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